Why are some PR pros so angry about the ‘PR Defined’ campaign?

Last month, the Public Relations Society of America unveiled its campaign to define PR with the public’s help. Now, two delays later, some people are steaming.

Defining an entire industry is no easy task, especially when it’s one as varied and often ambiguous as that of public relations. Yet that’s exactly what the Public Relations Society of America has aimed to do with its Public Relations Defined campaign, an effort that’s been delayed twice.

Although many people welcomed the campaign when PRSA unveiled it in December—with a story in The New York Times no less—it has since attracted its share of critics.

The industry is built on meeting deadlines for clients, after all, so when PR Daily reported this week that the campaign had hit its second road bump—pushing the unveiling of a definition until late February—a number of readers expressed their dismay in the comments section.

“This is exhausting,” said one reader. “I wish I could get on board with this, but I’m becoming more and more ashamed of this profession. No wonder PR gets so little respect.”

Another reader took direct aim at PRSA:

“This exemplifies why I allowed my 20+ year membership and APR to expire. PRSA is so disconnected from actual public relations. One definition to fit everything that gets thrown under the PR moniker? It’s going to fit everything from the big agencies and big corporate PR departments (which own PRSA by the way) to the solo and nonprofit practitioners? PRSA should call it a team building exercise rather than an actual effort. There is no way a one-size-fits-all description will ever fit PR as long as it continues to have such a broad and diversified base.”

PRSA’s Keith Trivitt responded to the negative sentiment in the comments section of the story, carefully explaining:

“As you have no doubt realized, trying to modernize the definition of a profession that has millions of practitioners around the world and is practiced in various ways that differ by country, culture and professional standing isn’t an any exercise to undertake. But it is one we felt, and we believe many in the profession feel the same, is absolutely necessary to help enhance the value of PR and better inform others of our modern role.”

That exercise reached its latest stage on Thursday when PRSA announced the three candidate definitions and asked for public feedback. It seems likely that this stage will also spark negative comments from detractors.

Are you irked by this campaign (or a particular aspect of it)? If so, why? Please let us know in the comments section.


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